Coming from Guangzhou, China, halfway around the world, the most common question I got from my fellow students when I first came to USC was “Why?”. “Why move all the way to LA for college?”

Moving so far away from home to study engineering was definitely a decision that I had to think through, but despite the difficulties of the international student experience, I can safely say that I made the right choice for me!

When choosing which university to attend, the proximity to my family was a major factor, but for me the lure of embarking on an adventure in a new country outweighed the desire to stay close to home. The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology was only two hours away from home, and while attending school there would have been a rewarding and challenging experience in its own right, growing up I always dreamed of going to college somewhere completely new, where I could find my footing on my own. I had only visited LA once before college, when I was much younger, and so in many ways committing to USC (especially since living abroad, I did not have the opportunity to visit campus before orientation) was a leap of faith. In all honesty, while the glamour of Los Angeles and the sunny Californian weather did factor into my decision to choose LA as my home (far) away from home; what was more important was the idea of living in a city that is diverse and vibrant, with a breadth of cultural and artistic experiences. I love that I can spend time at the beach, go hiking in the mountains, visit cultural centers and museums, and explore new food spots, all in the same space: Los Angeles.

But why USC specifically? For me, diversity was a key trait I was looking for in the university admissions process; I grew up studying in an international school, where my friends all came from different backgrounds, spoke different languages, and had different life experiences. Attending a university that championed diversity was incredibly important to me, and USC’s reputation as a school that embraced a diverse student population (USC has the second highest proportion of international students of any university in the country!) was a major factor for me. In addition, diversity in the academic experience was very important to me: while I do love science and math, I have very keen interests in areas outside my major, including in history and politics! USC’s Engineering+ initiative, as well as the breadth of academic minors and extracurricular organizations offered, convinced me that this would be the perfect place to explore my interests both in and out of engineering. As my sophomore year draws to an end, I am so grateful that USC has allowed me to embrace this diversity through: my involvement with Model UN (an international relations based and political organization on campus), my minor with the Political Science department in Law and Public Policy, and the wide variety of classes outside my major that I have had the opportunity to take.

Since the college admissions process is unique to each individual, it is important to understand what your personal priorities for your college experience are, and to tailor your decisions to those priorities. It can be very easy to fall into the trap of making your admissions decision based on what you think you ‘should’ be looking for at a university, but a more holistic approach to the decision, taking into account factors such as location, proximity to (or distance from) home, academic diversity, and the overall student experience, has in my experience proven to be more effective and far more rewarding. Learning more about the resources available at USC Viterbi and about the experiences current students have had with these resources, is a great way to gain this holistic overview. On that note, check out some of the blogs written by other Viterbi Student Ambassadors to get a flavor for the student experience here at USC!

Sheetal Madnani

Sheetal Madnani

MAJOR: Chemical Engineering YEAR: Class of 2021 HOMETOWN: Guangzhou, China PRONOUNS: she/her/hers INSTA: @sheetalmadnani On campus I have been involved with Model UN, Freshman Academy, and interning abroad through the Global Fellows program! I also conduct research in environmental policy and climate mitigation, and am involved in climate advocacy through the LA Mayor's office.